I’m fascinated by resilience, the toughness that gets you through. I reflect daily on resilience, I try every day to do inconvenient things to keep me sharp.
I also look for small things to make things better for the next person who comes after me.
I Hate making my bed, yes, so today I’m starting to make my bed every day (hopefully).
I used to be the guy who would take the last fork, use it and throw it in the dishwasher, that inconvenienced the next person, who just reheated their meal, now they gotta open the drawer, see nothing is there, then go to the dishwasher, pick out some crusty fork, wash it, just to eat their meal. Maybe I could have just washed the fork after I was done. I’ve been washing dishes by hand for over a year since I had that revelation.
Don’t you wish this this pandemic was over? Ofcourse, but also not really.
It’ll be over when it’s over and when that time comes I’ll have an appreciation for a whole new set of things that I took for granted before.
But I don’t long for it to be over, I can’t control that.
I’ll use this time to build resilience, make myself stronger in the face of adversity.
I’ll find ways to avoid large crowds when I run and find new parts of our city I just never saw before.
I’ll create new habits,
I’ll spend more time with my boys in the weekends doing new things.
I’ll be more aware of them growing up and I’ll be thankful for this time for giving me that.
I’ll get better at understanding my company’s finances.
This pandemic gave me an opportunity to show the team the depths of my support for them and their families.
I can not control the pandemic, I can control my perspective, my actions, and my learnings.
Is it weird working by yourself all day, nope, I made it my new normal.
I learned to appreciate
the “no one in the stall next to you”,
the oh whose dishes are these… Oh they’re mine.
Remember how we’d hate having to send that email about cleaning the sink? What we wouldn’t do to have co-workers around to fill that sink up again right now right? Perspective.
Everything has it’s moment.
The grass is never greener. It’s different. Never greener.
Resilience is just like any other muscle
We all have the exact same muscles in our bodies, couple of biceps, hamstrings, and calves, so why do some calves look like this?
What’s the difference in somebody with lats and someone with wide lats? Practice. Doing hard things, resilience.
When you see those muscles you know it and you know the work someone had to put in to get there, looking at the muscle definition you instantly know the early mornings or late nights this person pushed through,
the hours of food prep
the cold days when they have to get the car started to go to the gym
denying that pizza, that beer, that chocolate for protein shakes and chicken breasts.
When you see sculpted muscle on someone you know they weren’t just born that way it took practice, NO OTHER WAY that “just” happens. You can tell yourself genetics, sure and maybe that is, we don’t all have equal talents. What can you control? What food your put in your mouth, you can choose to do squats while you watch Netflix, do you?
When I see someone chiseled, I know I don’t want the sacrifice enough to get in that shape. But I don’t wish for my body to be like theirs because I know it could be, I just don’t want to put in the work, and that is OK.
Here are other ways I’ve practiced resilience
Practice being disliked
So my first thoughts on resilience as a muscle you practice on sculpting came a while back, when I practiced being disliked by sitting with a baby in first class solo on a 9-hour flight from Madrid to Philly it helped me build resilience because I had my newborn son sitting up there with me for half the flight, Nora and I had a rule if only one of us gets upgraded, you take the kid.
Practice through pain
It was 545 am and I was running before the sun was up on my normal route. The street lights were on and they cast a weird shadow on the concrete below causing me to miss a 4 inch break in the concrete from the root of a tree.
Needless to say I hit it in full speed, pacing about 8:30/mi. I was only .4 miles into my run when I hit it. I knew this was going to be bad. I bit it hard, my phone cracked and I fully fell out, knuckles were scraped, knees bloody, and my toe, yeah it was fucked. I could already see blood coming though my shoe.
In that moment I said what would David goggins do?
And I ran another 3 miles with blood oozing out of the top of my shoe. Why? Practice.
I woke up the next morning, this thing was deep black, it hurt like hell, I was scabbed on my knuckles and knees, so by 5:30 I was up for a 1.13 mile run at 11:14 pace.
4 days later I was back to something respectable
This is my resilience library, things I can pull on and remember when shit gets tough. If I could do that, I can definitely get through X.
If I can push through 3 miles with this pain, I’ll be injured some other time and I can remember that I pushed through once in the face of a tough injury and hopefully that reminder will get me through some other tough time where I need to will myself over some obstacle.
When’s the last time you practiced being disliked or doing something that you don’t wanna do for 30 days, or something that makes you completely uncomfortable just as practice?
Just like those muscles in your legs you get stronger with working that muscle, its never going to “just happen” you must practice!
Perspective — What me with resilience? Consistently broadening my perspective.
For me in these “tough” times I decided I was going to get up and run every morning until I got to 200k last month, it sucked doing it during the worst month in our company’s history, everything in me wanted to get to the office by 7:30 and get the day started, so I had to get up at 5:00 some mornings to make it happen, that sucked until it became my new normal.
As I ran at 5 or 6 in the morning I started seeing more and more people in their cars sometimes with their kids sleeping overnight. Here are 2 pictures of people I get to walk by almost every morning to do my run, neither was there 6 weeks ago, they are less than 100 steps from my front door.
Seeing that makes me resilient. It’s become a critical coping mechanism for me to continue to have great days in spite of all that’s going on at this time and having my toughest time in all my years of running the business. How can I sit down at my desk, having lost 2.2 Million dollars in contracts in the last 6 weeks and think my day is tough after seeing new families on my running route sleeping in their cars that were not there 8 weeks ago.
These folks love their kids as much as I do, sadly they just have to make different decisions than I do because we have different resources. This is part of why I appreciate living & working in inner cities it keeps me a bit more grounded than the alternative. I know I am taking more risk.
Volunteerism — Feeling others pain, who are experiencing life differently helps build resilience.
When I was 23 I started volunteering at a children’s hospital and in that time I was working at a job I really didn’t like. I was in my bubble of my whole life was about my career it felt like the end of the world to have a job I didn’t like, in spite of it being a good job, that paid me well, I had good benefits I had good health insurance so it was a good job. My dad was working in airplane hangars in the dead of winter, I was working a desk job on the internet.
How quickly I had forgotten about the days of working in warehouses making pathogen kits for con edison or packing books in an Amazon warehouse, my new reality just a few years later was that this desk job in the lovely air conditioning sucked.
It wasn’t until I started volunteering at the children’s hospital that I saw what I consider to be much more difficult decisions made by parents and pain of those parents and their concern for their children, every, single, day, that helped me to keep my “tough job” time in a different perspective. My point here is that volunteerism can broaden your perspective and in broadening that perspective at the age of 23, 20 years ago is helping me to deal with tough times TODAY.
Gratitude — How I start my day alters my mindset for the WHOLE day.
I started writing in a gratitude journal 19–20 months ago and as a result I think that’s helped me to be more resilient at these times as well, see, the first thing I see on my phone every morning is a prompt to remind me of what I should be thankful for.
What you open first sets the stage for your day.
Social media — depending on who you follow it could be jealousy, it could be gossip, it could be gratitude, but who you follow dictates what you see.
News — doom and gloom, if it bleeds it reads, bad news, the world is bad an unsafe.
Email — Starting your day thinking about the pile of work you have.
Opening a gratitude app gets me starting my day in a very different mental state than opening Instagram. I have found that starting my day being prompted to remember the things that do have that I can (and should) be thankful for makes me resilient for everything else that comes at me the rest of the day. I’ve worked my gratitude muscle and its paying spades right now.
Slowing down when you want to speed up
Another way I once practiced resilience, I spent a whole week not walking past anyone on the city streets and I was intentionally practicing not walking by slow people. So often I would hurriedly walk by someone, I’m always in a rush trying to optimize my route and my transit time.
I figured if I could train myself to slow the eff down, and walk slowly and put my hands behind my back and kinda just take it slow, a few times I got caught behind really old slow people over and over but I never allowed myself walk past them, it was an instance of practicing resilience that I can draw on today. I can slow down and I can draw on that experience reminding me when I just feel the need to get somewhere quick that I can slow down.
I’ve had to learn 2 things:
1 — to be careful not to use my approach to minimize others way of dealing with tough times, while this is not easy I work on it.
2 — to realize that even in speaking my truth, people may hear it and compare as well, which might make them think I am doing #1 (even if I am not).
So while resilience isn’t a muscle you can see like you can see really strong set of calves or a really wide set of lats. It functions like any other muscle those who practice that muscle over and over again through tough times through failure and make every day another day to try to get better at resilience, those folks might just be able to get through tough times with less collateral damage.
I am a sample size of one. So this might not work for you. I’m calm, I’m focused, I’m not down. I’m not missing what I used to have, I’m finding ways to be grateful for the new perspectives I’ve gained.
I hope that you practice resilience starting today whether it’s a month of washing dishes by hand or if it’s not walking past people on the sidewalk or practicing doing something that people don’t like…find your own way to practice resilience it’s a muscle that when you build it up, it will help you through some really tough times with a smile on your face in gratitude in your heart.